The month of COLD. Typically the start of the year is when Dave and I suit up and venture outside like hardcore Minnesotans and look to the forest for owls. It's a great time to see them and in the past, we've usually had our best luck during January. However, it seemed that this year would play out a bit differently. Record searing cold temps seeped into the state (even our propane tank decided to freeze up and shut down our furnace) which made it a bit difficult to want to venture outside period.
The wind-chills recorded -65, insane digits to comprehend unless you step outside yourself and breathe it in...it's lung piercing. The moment our down jackets hit the air, it froze them. Literally. Their once soft fibers now crunched as we went to fill our bird feeders. But, our curiosity gets the best of us when weather turns extreme, and we were far too curious to allow those bone-chilling temps stop us from seeing the best that Minnesota has to offer this time of year.
We headed to Duluth and made a pitstop along the shore to catch some great ice shards along this mysterious lake, and Mother Superior has an amazing way of displaying a phenomenon called seasmoke, where steam rises up over the water that is warmer than the air. Over the course of a couple months, ice shards had broken away from the water and washed up, creating a razor sharp surface which proved difficult to walk on. It does make awesome photos though!
We geared up in the -50 degrees, praying that the life of our camera batteries would last long enough to get the snapshots we were hoping for. The frozen landscape could only be described like that out of the planet Hoth from Star Wars. We chuckled as we thought of Luke and Han Solo trying to fight the elements to stay alive.
Here we were living in it, and suffice to say, that cold does disorient you. I found myself messing up camera settings and not adjusting correctly, even though I had confidence in my camera skills. But the lake is truly beautiful this time of year as waves splash up out of the water and freeze along all the surfaces, water so blue you're sure it's the deep ocean, and watching the cold air skim the surface of the ice sends chills down your spine. Granted, we'd take little warming breaks in the car to thaw out our frozen fingers, limbs, nose, and cameras. You know it's cold when the moisture in the air turns to ice particles all over you within seconds.
Again, with the polar vortex in full swing, our first thoughts are usually on wildlife. We know they are built for winters, but we also know how imperative it is that their body has the nutrients and stored fat to make it through such lows. So we made sure our feeders were triple stocked, repeatedly throughout the day. It was also important to supply them with freshwater, for even birds need to keep their feathers clean and conditioned so that they are able to puff them up and trap warm air to stay warm.